Sunday, December 20, 2009

The wheels on the bus...part 1.

(Note:I am back from Africa and boy do I have some stories. It also gave me a chance to reflect and jot down a bunch of ideas for stories I had forgotten about. While I type up the most memorable item of our visit, here's a two-part story of my first and only Greyhound ride.)

I am coming home for the first time since I have moved away from my family in California to set up camp in Colorado. Since funds are tight, I take the cheapest mode of travel I could find – the bus.

The plan is to leave after work on a Friday and arrive in San Jose sometime Saturday afternoon. I have several books to read, my Walkman for music and some accumulated fatigue that will ensure that I will sleep through most of the ride.

The first hours are uneventful. People get on, the bus stops, people get off, different people get on, rinse and repeat. At about Midnight we stop somewhere across the border of Nevada. I know it’s Nevada because I look out the window and see bright neon signs that let me know that they have plenty of slot machines. People pile out to use the restroom and grab a sandwich in one of those plastic triangle containers. I see one person put a few dollars into a slot machine and I wonder if he thinks he is going to win his fortune in the middle of the night while in the middle of nowhere.

I am one of the first ones back on the bus, I pull out my book, flip ahead and see that the chapter ends in about 5 pages. My plan is to finish the chapter and then nod off to sleep. I sink into my story as the haze of sleep presses heavier and heavier on my eyes.

Then I feel something odd. Something wrong, I tense up immediately. I freeze and listen. No strange noises from the bus, nothing around me. I slowly turn my head to the left toward the aisle.

He’s staring right at me from about 8 feet away sitting in the row across the aisle. A scrawny older man with a week’s beard growth and a knit cap is staring with a vicious intensity right into my eyes. My first thought was ‘Is this guy an extra hobo from the movie Journey of Natty Gann?’ I shake the cobwebs out of my head and ask, “Yes?”

“Somebody got into my bag.”, he snarls.

“Excuse me?”, I ask.

He leans a little closer and says “SOMEbody got into my bag. And when I find out who, I am going to kill him.” I see his face in better light and see that his right eye is injured, like someone beat on it with a pretty solid object. It’s swollen and colored with dark purple and red and yellow-ish green.

I have no idea how to react. On its own, my mouth says, “Well, it wasn’t me.” One thing is for sure. I am not falling asleep. I turn back to my book and can feel him glaring at me for another 15 minutes. After about an hour I look over and he has his eyes shut and appears to be sleeping, but I remained glued to my book.

At sunrise, we have to change busses. We all pile out of the bus taking all of our gear and wait in the cold empty bus station. I sit down on the concrete floor with my back against the wall and see Hobo-Man making his way toward the closest restaurant. I assume he actually was sleeping since he appears to be full of energy – moving erratically, talking to himself, eyes darting every which way occasionally looking into mine. I pray that he’s not on the same bus all the way to San Jose so I can have the chance to get a few hours sleep.

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